Kyle Shanahan explains pressures of 49ers being lone undefeated NFL team

Kyle Shanahan explains pressures of 49ers being lone undefeated NFL team

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have not played many big games over the past five seasons. But this is the year that changes.

Coach Kyle Shanahan’s team is the only unbeaten squad remaining in the NFL. They can take a major step toward the franchise's first division title since 2012 with a victory Monday night over the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

The 49ers can take a three-game lead in the loss column over Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams. But a loss would mean the Seahawks would move just one game behind the 49ers and remain unbeaten in the NFC West with a rematch against the 49ers coming Week 17 in Seattle.

“Our team knows where we’re at, and I don’t have to sit there and explain it to them very much,” Shanahan said on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “We have guys who aren’t just along for the ride. This stuff means a lot to our players, from the first player to the last player.

“We got some football people in our building, and they’re not just here to say they’re football players. They want to win, they want to work at it every week. They know we put in a lot of work to get to this opportunity. But that’s just the start.”

The start of the 2019 season is a dramatic departure from the two seasons since Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have taken over with the 49ers. The 49ers opened 0-9 in 2017, and were 1-7 last year.

But with more victories, there come different issues, Shanahan said.

“We’ve had some real bad records here over the last two years, especially to start out,” Shanahan said. “And when you’re 1-6 or 0-8 or whatever it is, people think that’s the most stressful thing in the world, which it is. It’s pretty miserable.

“But 8-0 is not much different. Eight-and-oh doesn’t mean anything. It means you have an opportunity, but it gets harder and harder.”

The 49ers are in the midst of a five-year playoff drought. After the team’s best start since 1990, there are plenty of expectations for the 49ers that did not exist in the past few seasons.

“There’s more pressure because you don’t want to mess this up,” Shanahan said. “We’ve gotten a chance to be where we’re at, and now we got to make sure we get in those playoffs. Every game matters.”

Even beyond an NFC West title, the 49ers have their sights set on winning enough games to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs. The 49ers also can strive for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

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“We have to get better each week as we go if we want to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Shanahan said. “I do know from my history of being in this league, at the end of the year, only one team is happy. And I’ve never been happy at the end of the year.

“Eight-and-oh is nice. We’re enjoying it, so far. But this is just the start. We have a lot ahead of us, and we’re only going to be happy if it ends one way."

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

BRADENTON, Fla. — For the second time in as many months, a member of the 49ers has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Linebacker Fred Warner took home the title for November after Nick Bosa had the honor for October. During the month, Warner tallied 44 total tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. 

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes altering the linebacker’s responsibilities has given Warner an opportunity to play with more speed. 

“We’ve taken a lot off his plate so he can just go line up and play,” Saleh said Thursday. “Putting more of the onus on making sure that guys lineup and go play. We were playing some of those read-option teams, the Arizona teams, we’re asking him to make a lot of checks and see if he can get us in the perfect defense. 

“While he’s busy trying to do that, he’s not able to focus on his job. Even though he was getting everyone lined up and everything was perfect, it’s just not fair for him. So, to take a little bit off his plate so he can go ahead and go play, I think that’s really been the difference.”

Saleh is not alone in praising Warner. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman also has been impressed with the young linebacker's work ethic and growth in his second season. The fact that Warner didn’t play inside until he was with the 49ers makes his accomplishments even more significant. 

“The inside linebacker already has so much on his plate,” Sherman said. “Being able to take some of that off—there was one game I think he had six calls in one play. Where if this guy moves here, he has to readjust the line. He has to tell the DBs this, he has to tell this guy this and sometimes that just doesn’t allow him to play fast.

“He’s getting everybody else lined up to play fast but he can’t play fast. He has to think about all these calls, all these adjustments. Maybe you put a little more strain on the rest of the guys. You spread out the strain and it allows him to play fast and for us to be a better defense.”

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Now in his second year, Warner sees things developing on the field more quickly. No matter the workload given to him by Saleh, the BYU product has been able to adjust.  

“I think as the year has gone on, he has kind of started to realize what’s too much, what’s too little,” Warner said. “I agree completely. Ever since kind of the midway point of the season, I think he has lined it up for me to just go out and play fast.”  

49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments


49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments

BRADENTON , Fla. -- Following radio broadcaster Tim Ryan's one-game suspension for his comments regarding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, several 49ers players spoke out, believing there was no malicious intent behind what the analyst said. 

Known as being outspoken on most topics, Richard Sherman did not mince words about what Ryan said. He even mentioned that the commentator had personally apologized to several players while at the team hotel after the announcement of his suspension. 

“I know Tim personally, and I listened to the dialogue and saw it, read it,” Sherman said. “Honestly, I wasn’t as outraged as everybody else. I understand how it can be taken in a certain context and be offensive to some. 

“But if you’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a brown ball, they are wearing dark colors, and he has a brown arm,’ honestly sometimes we were having trouble seeing it on film. He’s making a play fake and sometimes he’s swinging his arm really fast and you’re like, does he have the ball? And you look up and [Mark] Ingram is running it.

“So it was technically a valid point but the way he said it, you can always phrase things better. I’ve had a relationship with him since I’ve gotten here and he’s never been anything other than a great guy and a professional and a guy who takes his job seriously.” 

Edge rusher Dee Ford expressed similar sentiments about Ryan’s comments, and confirmed that the two had spoken since the incident. 

“He walked up to me earlier and before he even said anything I told him. ‘I got your back.’” Ford said. “I already knew the story. The words kind of got taken out of context, and of course, now he knows he could have used better judgment with his words. But we got his back. I knew what he was trying to say. 

“This era we live in, it is just what it is, but I know him personally. I speak to him a lot. He loves to watch the D-line and there’s not one -- type of bone -- you know what bone I’m talking about, in his body. So I got his back, so put that to bed really fast.”  

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also spoke about Ryan’s nature, not believing that there was negative intent behind his comments. 

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“I’ve always, as a human being, tried to judge people on how I interact with them,” Saleh said. “And I love the man. He’s a very genuine human being and he knows he made a mistake and he’s just trying to move this on as quickly as possible.” 

Dennis Brown will be on the call with Greg Papa during Ryan’s absence for Sunday’s matchup against the Saints in the Superdome.